We know we've been writing a ton about the Navy's X-47B lately, but we couldn't resist posting this as a midweek photo.
It's a great sunset shot that Northrop Grumman sent out to announce that it's stealth UAV has just finished a series of tests certifying that it can safely taxi on a crowded carrier flight deck. The deck handling tests are a precursor to what will the X-47B's history-making first flight off the ship, slated for 2013.
As we reported last week, a Northrop built X-47B is aboard the USS Harry S. Truman as it sails in the Atlantic Ocean off the Virginia Capes The drone taxied around the Truman's flight deck controlled by a crewman wearing a remote control system strapped to his arm.
X-47B is meant to prove that the sea service can operate an unmanned, stealthy jet capable of doing everything from reconnaissance and strike missions to air-to-air refueling operations. If all goes well, the X-47B will pave the way for a new fleet of navy combat jets, now called Unmanned Carrier Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike, sometime around 2020.
Here's what Northrop has to say about the completion of the deck handling tests that tool place between Nov. 27 and Dec. 17:
"The X-47B deck trials proved convincingly that the design and operation of the aircraft are fully compatible with the rhythm and operational requirements of the carrier flight deck," said Mike Mackey, [X-47B] program director for Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems. "They provided a major boost to the team's confidence as we move steadily toward our first carrier landings next year."
Mackey said the testing included taxiing the X-47B on the flight deck, maneuvering the aircraft up to the ship's catapults using the Northrop Grumman-designed Control Display Unit; taxiing the aircraft over the ship's arresting cables and conducting fueling operations. The team also moved the aircraft up and down the ship's elevators between the flight deck and the hangar bay.
"We proved that the X-47B air system is mature and can perform flawlessly in the most hostile electromagnetic environment on earth, a Nimitz class Navy aircraft carrier," added Mackey.